Historical Identities and Sovereignty Claims: Focus on South China Sea

May 4, 2017 -
10:00 am to 4:30 pm

Territorial conflicts among sovereign states, whether on land or sea, have been endemic since the appearance of the very idea of sovereignty in Europe. Yet as Thongchai Winnichakul and others have revealed, the very idea of a sovereign ‘geobody’ in Asia is not much more than a century old. So how are historical materials and events that do not speak to the modern notion of sovereignty utilized to make sovereignty claims? To what extent is the mobilization around historical identities the more important factor? How rapidly can these identities change? How do states and other players negotiate between relatively recent international laws, identity mobilization and assertions of raw power?

Morning Session: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Historical Idenitities, international law and the limits of power

Arnulf Becker Lorca, Brown University: Non-Western, Asian, Chinese: Plural International Legal Cultures & the Meaning of Sovereignty
Franck Billé, University of California - Berkeley: Sea as Land: New Deployments of the Logomap in East Asia
Jeffrey Winters, Northwestern University: Becoming Indonesia and Indonesian

Afternoon Session: 1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

The South China Sea

Tansen Sen, Baruch College, City University of New York: The Zheng He Expeditions and Geopolitics of the South China Sea
William Hurst, Northwestern University:  Great Power Politics in the South China Sea
William Callahan, London School of Economics: Maps, Sovereignty and Space in the South China Sea
Professor Callahan will also show his 15 minute film, "Mearsheimer vs. Nye on the Rise of China'


Wrap-up Dialogue and Discussion: 3:45 pm - 4:30 pm

Ted C Fishman and Prasenjit Duara


This event is free and open to the public. 

For more information, please contact Taylor Rowland at taylor.rowland@duke.edu.

Contact name



  • Global Asia Initiative